Anyone who’s experienced a Syracuse, N.Y. winter knows how cold it can get — think 0 degree temperatures plus a negative windchill. It’s not weather that makes you want to venture outside unless you absolutely, positively have to.
Andrew Farah — who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s at Syracuse University and braved six of those winters — wanted to create a product that would show him ahead of time whether his destination, like his favourite coffee shop, was too crowded and not worth a trek through the snow.
Farah started building Density, a sensor that is able to measure how busy a location is in real time.
The sensor went through numerous iterations: the first version had some trouble with accuracy and was unable to tell if lines were forming, and it couldn’t differentiate between two people holding hands or entering a room at once. But now, the company is ready to roll out the latest version of its sensor, which is available to order starting today.
The sensor is attached above a doorway and points downward, so when people walk in and out, it’s able to bounce infrared light off the floor. It creates blobs of light that indicate humans moving throughout a space, something that Farah and his team quickly realised could be useful for many more types of businesses than just coffee shops.
“We had an assumption that was that small businesses were largely underserved and they needed people count,” Farah told Business Insider. “We put out the prototype with that concept, that we would go after small to medium-sized business or tech companies that serve [small businesses]. We heard from a lot of those, but then we heard from insurance companies, we heard from corporate spaces, theme parks, airlines, ERs, churches; we’ve heard from college campuses, from students, from banks. We just realised we vastly underestimated where people count can go.”
Density is currently being used in that Syracuse coffee shop, Cafe Kubal, but it’s also being used by Uber. The ride-hailing startup has Density installed in its support centres in order to make sure the centres are staffed properly. Farah said the company is realising the value its device could have for more than just businesses, too.
“Knowing how many people are in a space before you have to go into that space is really helpful from an EMT standpoint, it’s really helpful from a firefighter’s standpoint, it’s helpful during an active shooter circumstance,” Farah said. “
The use cases are so varied that we decided to only build a device and an API because we think that people count is relative in the context of other applications.”
The sensor costs $45 per sensor per month if businesses choose to purchase it annually, or $95 per sensor per month if they choose a month-to-month plan. There’s no set-up fee and the company can swap a sensor out at no cost if it updates the hardware.
Along with the launch of the new sensor, Density has also raised $4 million in Series A funding, led by Upfront Ventures’ managing partner Mark Suster. Suster will be joining Density’s board.